Catch The Rainbow

Ritchie Blackmore … then

I made a rare pilgrimage to the O2 Arena last night to see a life long hero, Mr Ritchie Blackmore.  I say a rare pilgrimage, as I find the sound and vision at the O2 to be generally appalling and I was not disappointed at this concert.  O2 have previously caused my son untold problems over their legendarily bad administration and I freely admit that I therefore have a grudge – see O2 OMG.  That aside, I find the acoustics and size of the O2 quite inconsistent with a live band experience and had previously vowed never to go again after seeing Prince there in 2007.  In this case I felt I had no choice, so I got on my bike and cycled 30 miles for the experience and am overall pleased I went to see a man who remains a major influence on my approach to music and, indeed, my overall attitude to life.

But all is not lost – thanks to the generosity of a fellow traveller we have some better quality sound and visuals from the front of stage. See Rainbow Rising at the O2. But I want to move on to a story, as Ritchie Blackmore was influential in helping me secure my first job offer at Shell ….

Rainbow Rising

I went to a Grammar School, essentially a factory for Oxbridge students.  But I did not want to go to university. My parents were 45 and 67 when I was born and were not especially affluent – my dad was 85 by the time I was 18 and I felt I needed to get a job rather than go to University although there was no pressure from them to do so. Of course, I was completely ostracised by the Grammar School for making such a decision. The so-called “careers master” (also the gym teacher) said “well, laddy, tell me when you have got a job” when I told him I did not want to go to University. So I set about looking for one  …

I was mad about Chemistry and Music as a child. So I applied to the two major employers in the area – Shell and The Wellcome Foundation. I was invited to an entire day of interviews at Shell (who were noted for extremely progressive employment policies at that time). Looking back at the day I was sat before PhD after PhD, who showed me complex chemical reactions on a chalk board and asked how I would solve their greatest problems. Needless to say I doubt I answered any of the questions correctly! When asked about my interests, I recall boring them endlessly about Ritchie Blackmore’s use of medieval “modal scales” as a differentiator in Deep Purple’s music and the 16th Century in general.  In other words, I bored them with my obsession and they theirs. I used to spend hours at the top of the stairs with my record player slowed down to 16 RPM trying to figure out what he was playing … until my mum shouted me to come down and eat my fishfinger sandwiches …

Modal scales and Fish Fingers – the breakfast of champions …

To my surprise I was offered a job at Shell, having bored them rigid with my music obsession and not really been able to operate as a PhD chemist with an A Level, although I eventually took the one at Wellcome (another story). I suspect that they felt my passion for the music and nerdiness. They must have given me the benefit of the doubt that I could actually do the work. Thank goodness that there were no HR people in sight.

Richie Blackmore … now

Back to the concert. For me, Blackmore’s guitar style has matured over the years, with rather more Bach that Screaming Lord Sutch about his performance these days. Many more melodic classical progressions inspired by his love of classical music, rather less random improvisation and brutality. The sound, as I said, was hampered by the size of the venue, which is why I’m so grateful to the man at the front who filmed it. I think The O2 would have helped themselves by training three cameras on the stage and back projecting the results on the screen to give those far away at least some opportunity to see the action, especially given the quality of the visuals for the show. You can find the set list and many of the performances at Rainbow Rising at the O2. A great highlight of the show was “Soldier of Fortune” played on acoustic guitar, although marred by whoops and shouting from the crowd. An added bonus was to see The Sweet, a band who were strongly influenced by Blackmore when they were playing their own songs such as “Sweet FA.” with a wink and a nod to “Hard Lovin’ Man” by Deep Purple. Lest we forget the majesty of Mr Blackmore:

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Peter Cook is  a business speaker who blends deep insights on strategy, innovation and business creativity with parallel lessons from music. An author of 7 1/2 books on business. Read his article on Deep Purple and Improvisation and more on Ritchie Blackmore at The Music of Business and Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll.

 

A Bowie Tribute

Very short notice for this Bowie Tribute on Monday 29 May … here’s the press release for the event

Brexit Oddity

Painting by Jane Raggett

Ground Control to Theresa May, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong?

David Bowie may have sung ‘Rebel Rebel’, but he could not have possibly have foreseen the impact that his music made on generations young and old. On Monday 29 May 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm, The No 10 Vigil, visit the Thin White Duke’s mural in Brixton for a tribute to The Man who Sold the World and a protest about The Woman who is Selling England by the Pound. Diane Datson, leader of the No 10 Vigil said:

“David Bowie came from my home town of Bromley. He was a great humanist and an earthling. The No 10 Vigil stands for a return of humanity to planet earth and a rejection of the self-harming strategy of Theresa May. Simply stated, we are here to Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain. In Bowie’s own words, we believe that Brexit is the work of ‘All the Madmen’ and we stand to educate people about Brexit Mayhem”.

The Bowie tribute is the brainchild of Peter Cook, leader of The Academy of Rock, an author, business speaker and musician who was crushed by the loss of Bowie, Prince and George Michael in 2016 amongst too many others.  He appeared on CNN the day that Bowie died, discussing the work of this great innovator and chameleon in music:

“David Bowie stood alongside Prince and George Michael as a great communicator and gamechanger, reaching people’s heads, hearts and souls. It was an impossible task to showcase Bowie’s huge canon of work across nearly 50 years. I was haunted by the last track on Bowie’s last album ‘I can’t give everything away’. Whilst the lyric seems to reflect on his passing, I cannot help but draw a comparison with everything we are about to throw away if we vote for hardcore Brexit on June 8th. In the words of Joni Mitchell You don’t know what you got till it’s gone”

Click to view CNN interview

Peter has performed with cult punk rocker John Otway, Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist Bernie Tormé Meatloaf’s singing partner Patti Russo and had a rock band with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee Member at the Bank of England. He leads the musical direction of the No 10 Downing Street Vigil, which highlights concerns over Brexit at any cost to Leavers and Remoaners alike. Our work is featured on BBC Sunday Politics, The One Show, Breitbart, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Independent and The Guardian.

Smeared by Breitbart … The No 10 Vigil

The Sting

I was quite unprepared to see Sting in concert last night and overwhelmed by his superb musicianship, performance and width of his musical canon. I confess I had quite forgotten Gordon Sumner’s songwriting skills.  At the age of 66 his voice, playing and projection were in top form, giving all of us hope that age is no barrier to peak performance.

Perhaps the most poignant thing that connects me to Sting and his music is his solid values of human rights, environmental consciousness and sustainability. I was reminded of this through his lyrics and reconnected to my work for Amnesty International which started in the early 1980’s and which he epitomised through his song “They Dance Alone”. Sadly, Sting’s words remain relevant in these troubled times and I hope that our world leaders listen to him and others at such moments:

Convince an enemy, convince him that he’s wrong
Is to win a bloodless battle where victory is long
A simple act of faith
In reason over might
To blow up his children will only prove him right
History will teach us nothing

Hey Mr. Pinochet
You’ve sown a bitter crop
It’s foreign money that supports you
One day the money’s going to stop
No wages for your torturers
No budget for your guns
Can you think of your own mother
Dancin’ with her invisible son

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

And especially his song for the Mothers of the Disappeared (Desaparecidos). This was Sting’s symbolic gesture of protest against the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime killed thousands of people between 1973 and 1990 … on first hearing this song many years ago, I wept uncontrollably about the unimaginable grief and strength of these mothers. There are no words that adequately convey the meaning of his song so I will let the song do the work itself:

We live once more in troubled times and it seems that our human race is about to forget its humanity. Our ability to learn from history seems limited. Watch the video, conduct your own research into what lies behind the concert that Sting gave and take action for a more humane society …

To finish, here are a few excerpts from Sting’s recent tour including tributes to David Bowie from his son and Prince – I was privileged to attend this. Big thanks to Debbie Poli, MD of Lapel Pin Badges for this opportunity. Debbie makes all the badges that I wear, including orders for the last David Bowie album, Virgin, Star Wars and my very special Prince love symbol badge.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics, offering outstanding keynotes, masterclasses and longer term Business / OD, Coaching and Mentoring. He is author of 7 and a half books on business leadership. Check them out at Amazon.

Brighton Rock

I’m performing with Bernie Tormé , celebrated guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, Dee Snider and GMT this Saturday 8 April in Brighton. It’s part of my “official birthday” celebrations so I hope to see you there !! 🙂  Tickets, just £13.25 available here.

Bernie will be playing songs from his triple box set album “Dublin Cowboy” plus a selection of old favourites. The album features a whole album of new rock songs, an acoustic album rooted in Bernie’s Irish and other traditions and a live album. My wife and I went round to Bernie’s for dinner the other week and there are some exciting developments in the pipeline … shhhhh …. 🙂

Click the image to order your copy NOW

So, I’m ready with my bucket, spade, shades and suedes to hit the town of Brighton, famed for its rock, cock and royalty … Come join me for an unforgettable afternoon and evening.

And the inspiration for the title of this post. The magnificent Brian May and Queen : Brighton Rock. One of my early inspirations was the guitar playing of Brian May, alongside Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix and they taught me much of what I know now. Bernie Tormé‘s playing is out of this world, a fusion of psychedelia, hard rock and irish roots.  R U Experienced?

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Peter purges your inner business demons through music. Check his keynotes and longer masterclasses out at The Academy of Rock. For 1:1 mentoring and coaching on a worldwide basis contact him.

Photographing Princes

I met Nicole Nodland recently in the Virgin Lounge to discuss her part in the Worldwide Prince Photography Exhibition I am co-ordinating. Our close encounter provided an opportunity to discuss the art of a master photographer. Nicole has photographed a veritable treasure trove of artists including Pussy Riot, Mark Ronson, George Clinton, Anna Friel, Downton Abbey, Ed Sheeran etc. etc.

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince - click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince – click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

The manner of her meeting Prince was a great story of serendipity and a degree of drive on her part … Nicole had travelled to Europe and returned to LA to very little.  She moved back to Minneapolis with her mum for a bit.  Having done some photography for Warner Bros, someone suggested she get in touch with Prince.  Was this feasible?  Anyway, she did.  Some time later, one evening at 11 pm the phone rang and she was asked to go to Paisley Park.  What day? she thought.  The answer came “tonight”.  So she got ready and went.  Finding Prince in the complex was a problem but eventually a purple voice asked “Do you have polaroid?”  This was the start of her photography work with Prince lasting several years.

Do take a look at Nicole’s portfolio which spans video as well as still photography.  Here’s a few teaser pictures from her website.  Click the pictures to view the real thing. We are planning an event to cover Nicole’s work across the full range of her portfolio at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money Lounge in due course – watch this space.

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O'Connor

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O’Connor

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Read more on Amazon.

Zane, Zane, Zane – Ouvrez Le Chein

It is one year since David Bowie left planet earth and it is indeed blue in the cold of January.  Here are some links that mark Bowie’s extraordinary life:

My Eulogy to Bowie

The BBC documentary – The Last Five Years

Rolling Stone’s obituary

Blackstar

The London Boys by my friends Raf and O

CNN interview

Tony Visconti talks about the making of Heroes

 

bowie

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Read more about David Bowie on Amazon.

TMOB NEW EDITION COVER

Click on the picture to check the book out

Listen Without Prejudice – George Michael R.I.P.

I confess I had eschewed white soul music in the early 1980’s, due to being young and too focused on guitars and experimental synthesiser music. I therefore missed the arrival of Wham on the music scene. Sure, I was aware of their music, but carelessly dismissed it as bubblegum pop. Even their studio engineer Chris Porter initially saw Wham as just a teen band. It took a six-week business trip to Jakarta in 1983 and a long weekend in Bali to begin to understand the genius of George Michael. Sitting in a bar in Kuta drinking Emu lager and listening to “Wham Rap”, “Ray of Sunshine” and “Club Tropicana” on almost continual repeat in the bars was enough to hook me. Enough has already been written in the British Tabloid press about the sensational aspects of George Michael’s life and, to be frank, none of it interests me. The real point of an artist’s life is their artistry and it is to this that I am turning in this article.

My first surprise was George Michael’s personal transformation from disco diva to a world acclaimed soul and ballad singer, something which I should have spotted through my close encounter with Wham in Bali but which I somehow missed when his voice was bubble-wrapped in plastic pop music. I first paid attention to Michael’s voice when he produced “A Different Corner”, the beginning of a shift that would take several years to ferment and which was finally consolidated in 1990 when he released “Listen Without Prejudice”, an album whose title seemed for me to cut the ties with pure pop music and which elevated him to an international superstar. Michael refused to have his picture on the album in a principled decision to present the music and not the man.

What is also quite surprising about George Michael is just how his career was built on relatively few music releases.  After the fast and furious output of Wham, Michael only released 5 studio albums in 30 years, even less than that of the perfectionist Kate Bush. This is in contrast with David Bowie, with 27 albums over an extended period and in extreme contrast with Prince, with 39 studio albums and, reputedly with a vault of unreleased material that could last a generation. Notwithstanding court battles with record companies, it seems that George Michael would spend years working on an album until he was satisfied with it.

George Michael offered us object lessons in authenticity and ethics in his work to help educate the world about HIV / AIDS and his humanitarian work in general. A hallmark of great leaders is their ability to retain a sense of who they are by “touching the ground” from time to time. George Michael did this many times, through his private philanthropy, much of which remained a secret until his passing. I was passionately interested in HIV / AIDS through my work as a pharmaceutical scientist in bringing the first treatment to market in record time. Had we known more about this terrible condition earlier, we might still have had Freddie Mercury here today. Aside from his humanitarian work, George Michael was one of the few singers able to step into Mercury’s shoes vocally and in terms of his performance at Freddie’s tribute concert, as is evident in this performance:

The wider music world also recognised Michael’s vocal talents, having performed with Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Ray Charles, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston and many more. Frank Sinatra even wrote him a letter advising him not to waste his talent.

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At a personal level, the Wham T-Shirt “Choose Life” made as big an impact upon me as any MBA course and eventually informed my decision to leave a very well-paid job and start my own business some 23 years ago. For that phrase alone, I shall be eternally grateful to George Michael.

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At a global level 2016 unleashed so many disruptive forces in the world and George’s words express my hopes for 2017 better than anyone else:

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate

Hanging on to hope

When there is no hope to speak of

And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late

Well maybe we should all be praying for time

George Michael 1963-2016 – You have been loved